Share This Page

Lions' resilience the perfect selling point for program

| Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, 9:38 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg (14) and his teammates celebrate their 43-40 victory over Michigan in the fourth overtime of their game at Beaver Stadium on Oct. 12, 2013, in University Park.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Penn State defensive end C.J. Olaniyan (86) prepares to force a fumble by Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner (98) during the second quarter of their game at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, in University Park. Penn State defeated Michigan, 43-40, in the fourth overtime.

Success in coaching college football, for better or worse, often is as much about marketing as play calling, schemes and managing players.

Penn State's Bill O'Brien had about as comprehensive an infomercial for his program Saturday night as he could have hoped for at Beaver Stadium.

With several of the estimated 100 recruits who attended the Nittany Lions' 43-40, four-overtime win against Michigan watching from a balcony in the news conference room as he addressed the media afterward, O'Brien took advantage of the opportunity to sell his program.

“If you come to Penn State,” O'Brien said, “you have a chance to play in front of 108,000 fans, you're going to be on TV every week, and you're going to get a fantastic education. We have 150 different majors to choose from here, so you graduate from here, playing football, with a degree from Penn State. It's really an unbeatable combination.

“Hopefully things worked out tonight in that realm, too.”

Time will tell whether the thrilling win over a big-name, undefeated team before a capacity “whiteout” crowd of almost 108,000 with millions more watching on ESPN will buoy Penn State's recruiting. Things certainly worked out on the field for the Lions (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) against the No. 18 Wolverines (5-1, 1-1).

Penn State rallied — it trailed by 10 points with 6 minutes, 35 seconds remaining and by a touchdown with 50 seconds left — to force overtime. The Lions overcame four turnovers and in the overtimes survived a missed field goal and a fumble.

It proved the perfect backdrop for O'Brien to push one of his favorite buzzwords in discussing his program.

“These guys are resilient guys,” O'Brien said while dropping a derivative of the “R” word no fewer than eight times during his postgame news conference.

“This (win) just says a lot about our kids, a very resilient bunch of kids that care about each other and really love playing for Penn State.”

The athletic department has marketed the Lions through concise slogans such as “One Team” and “Next Level.”

In a sign of the times, signage at Penn State sporting events in recent seasons often has carried a hashtag such as #oneteam and #nextlevel.If O'Brien were in charge, he perhaps would prefer #resiliency.

O'Brien repeats the resiliency/resilient mantra ad nauseam after wins and losses, during postgame and mid-week pressers, at his weekly radio show and — it's obvious by the way many players parrot it — in the locker room to his players.

But these Lions don't dismiss it as a hokey catchphrase. They play the part.

They've been resilient in not letting the NCAA sanctions crush the program. Resilient from week to week in avoiding negative momentum from the school's first-ever loss to Indiana on Oct. 5 to carry over into the following game. Resilient within a game in coming back from near-certain defeat at multiple points Saturday.

“We are resilient,” cornerback Jordan Lucas said. “There were times where we were up, and there were times where we were down. We did not let that get to us. We kept on playing.”

“Everything we work for and just the team getting a win like this — four overtimes?” defensive end Anthony Zettel said. “I don't think you could ever get a win better than this.”

Particularly when it comes to selling the program.

Note: Hackenberg was named Athlon Sports' national freshman of the week.

Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.